Real Talk: Choosing a College Major that Makes You Money

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Whether you’re debating which major to choose while in college, or you’re undecided as you’re entering university, choosing a major can be one of the most important aspects of your early career. Depending on the major you choose, different job opportunities can open up, so it’s worth investing some time and exploration into choosing the correct one.

There can be a lot of misperceptions when it comes to choosing a major. Although you may hear advice from your peers or counselors saying that you “should follow your passion,” the workforce isn’t what it used to be. Not many people realize that the current college model is outdated: only around 28% of people use their majors in the workforce! Let’s be frank: college isn’t really a place to expand your horizons anymore; it’s become a means to an end to get something on your resume to look better for recruiters. 

And once you do figure out what fields are commonly required in job applications, it can often be too late and too expensive. Although colleges allow you to switch majors, it can cost up to $18,000 in extra tuition costs! Therefore, knowing exactly what financial opportunities specific majors can provide will help you make a better informed decision in the long run. 

Let’s discuss how you can decide on which major to choose, based on your personal plans and future career goals. 

Choosing the Right Major for You 

When you are choosing a major, take a look at what industries have high unemployment versus industries that have issues with underskilled employees. Obviously, you shouldn’t choose any majors that have high unemployment, like English, but if you have a major in a rapidly growing field like computer science, it’s a guaranteed way to make good income.  

We’re in the real world after all, and you need to major in a field that can sustain you for the long run. Before you start looking for majors that correlate to the career path you want, it’s important to look at the “blacklist” of majors. Because a lot of colleges aren’t really updated to modern job market insights, many majors available don’t really provide the opportunities you should get out of a bachelor’s. Even if they may seem relevant, these majors just aren’t worth it

It’s also important to note the return on investment (ROI). Although you may think some major pathways, such as medical school, should be a stable career choice, ultimately med school isn’t worth it due to the high costs and low income in comparison. When you do choose a major, note exactly how much time it will take to graduate, and thus start earning some income. Therefore for majors that require a masters or a doctorate, and thus require extra costs, depending on how much the median income is for that major, you might not have a good ROI. 

Similarly, the ROI can change based on the college you earn a major from. Although some colleges, such as the Ivy Leagues or private universities, advertise a high employment rate after graduation, if you’re paying, say, 2-3x more than a public university student yet you’re earning around the same, then that major at that university has a low ROI. 

But how can you tell which majors provide a good ROI, especially since many universities don’t provide the relevant information or statistics to help choose your major. 

How to Choose the Best Major 

PathMatch has developed the College Scoreboard Tracker, an all-encompassing way to access modern and relevant data regarding various majors. 

Let’s take a closer look at the tool. 

The College Scoreboard Tracker allows you to search majors in various colleges to gain an insight as to how pursuing that pathway can look, financially and time-wise. 

For example, if you want to learn more about a marketing major, you can type it in the search bar. 

This provides you with a list of various colleges that offer this major. Obviously, the type of college can impact the earnings a graduate can have. Naturally, a marketing major from an Ivy League university will earn more than a student from a state school, therefore it’s important to compare multiple schools to get a more comprehensive view. 

Once you do select a university, you can see the statistics of the major. 

With a graduation rate of 79%, it can mean that the major can be a bit more difficult compared to others, however, it’s important to compare to other colleges. 

Both marketing programs have a graduation rate of around 60-80%. This means that the major is somewhat difficult, possibly with a few difficult classes to weed out some students. However, the relative difficulty is easier than some other majors, as you can see here. 

At 19%, the graduation rate is much lower than marketing, due to the difficult coursework that goes into studying psychology. However, these statistics provide an insight, not a prediction. Graduation rates can change based on access to university resources, relative prestige of the university, and more. Some colleges may also offer a more competitive degree program for that major, making you a more competitive candidate in that field to recruiters. Therefore, it’s also important to take into account the earnings of graduates.

As you can see, although South University-Montgomery has a lower graduation rate, students earn a lower median income once they complete the program. This suggests that if you get a degree here, even if it may be more academically intensive, it won’t provide a pathway to a lucrative career. 

Similarly, a health science major earns more than a marketing major. Some majors naturally earn more than others, so if you’re still wondering about what major to choose, try looking through the list of highest earning majors and decide which one aligns to your strengths. 

Some of the highest earners are in high-demand fields such as statistics and computer science, so if you believe you have the skills to thrive in this major, consider choosing this pathway. 

However, your university and major go hand in hand. As we discussed, certain colleges can look better on resumes or just have a greater ROI, so it’s important to choose a place where you can absorb as much information as possible. After all, even if you select an in-demand major, if you don’t go to a good college, then all that effort goes to waste. Once you have a career path and major in mind, choose a proper college that can help you thrive in the long run. 

​​Not yet sure about what major or college to choose? PathMatch can help you match your interests to various career paths and help you learn the skills to succeed. Create a PathMatch Profile today!

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